How Many Tea Leaves Are There In A Tea Bag #flashfiction #interview technique

A recent article in the Guardian was sent to me by a friend on new interview techniques, suggesting I might like to create a little flash piece from it. Here is the article, and here is the flash…

‘I think that’s all our questions, Mr Thomas. Do you have any for us?’ Johnston O’Pliable smiled in that oily, insincere way that prospective employers used – at least in Gribble Thomas’ recent experience – when they were about to reject you. It was a ‘going through the motions’ smile – where ‘motions’ had the faecal meaning while the ‘going through’ part is how Gribble felt when they flushed him out of the door after another failed attempt at employment.

‘Just one.’ Gribble met the smile, and raised it with his best unctuous grin. ‘Since this is a tea business I wondered how many – and I accept this is an average – how many tea leaves there are in each tea bag?’

The smile on O’Pliable’s face slipped away, rather like it had been flushed. ‘What?’

‘I know there are different strength teas and different strength leaves, but assuming a standard breakfast teabag aimed at the nation’s first cuppa, how many—?’

O’Pliable’s complexion had moved from a milky white and was approaching a builder’s brew. ‘I heard the question. Why do you want to know?’

‘Why? Oh sorry, but I assumed that’s why you asked me if I had any questions. Up to this point it’s you who’ve being seeing if I would be suitable for the new job. But this is my chance to make sure I’d be happy with it, isn’t it?  I mean, if you were just going to reject me you wouldn’t prolong this interview with some sort of sham ‘let the interviewee think he has a chance’ opportunity, would you? No, of course not.’

The man who up to this point had said nothing during the interview – indeed, Gribble wondered if we was awake – leant forward. ‘Course we wouldn’t. Would we Johnston?’ He received a glare for his pains.

Gribble let the previously strong silent type have a special grovelling nod of the head. ‘Quite. Obviously I just want to be sure that you are the sort of organisation that has exacting standards of quality control. To do that you must want to ensure each teabag leaves the factory capable of giving just as good a cuppa as the last one. You’ll have to test each batch of tea to make sure it is up to your requirements before the tea is refined and bagged, I imagine. To do that the same quantity of tea needs to go into each bag, doesn’t it? Which must mean you use the same number of leaves per bag. I just wondered how you worked that out?’

O’Pliable goggled Gribble. The strong silent type nodded, apparently to himself. Gribble leant back. Maybe he’d scored this time. Maybe it might make a difference. Maybe…

The woman who’d asked him about his future hopes and his previous jobs, the one who he thought he’d got on well with, the one called Margarine or something, coughed lightly. ‘Mr Thomas, is  this some sort of reversal of the recent interview technique of asking candidates brain teasers, with you asking us one?’

Damn, Gribble thought.  I’ve been sussed. ‘No, not at all. I—.’

‘Oh good. Because that might have been very clever. If it’s not that then you might as well bugger off. I have to work with enough smart arses like these two muppets. Thank you. Please ask the next person to come in on your way out.’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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38 Responses to How Many Tea Leaves Are There In A Tea Bag #flashfiction #interview technique

  1. Juli Hoffman says:

    LOL This was too funny!!!!!!! Also…how many tea leaves ARE in there in each tea bag? LMAO!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darlene says:

    This is excellent. I was a recruiter and later an employment councillor so I asked these type of questions myself and taught job seekers how to be prepared for them. This was very clever indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. At my last interview (2001) I was asked to tell a joke. Seemed they were fed up with the usual candidates and protocol. Apparently the opposition was a guy with a squint and a woman with BO. I started Jan 7th 2002 and retired Jun 13th 2007. In March 2005 they discovered what the little paperclip in an email stood for, and found my CV attachment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ellenbest24 says:

    So amusing as we come to expect. You used leaves in two different ways, not extraordinary you may think; it mixed another shot of confusion to the table. An interviewer that was sharper would have put forward a weight as the answer … a company secret like the Coca-Cola recipe would have disguised his lack of knowledge and left him without egg on his face.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This – is – Brilliant!

    I have been in many of the real and virtual seats around the interview table (candidate, hiring manager, one of many interviewers, out of sight coach and the worse seat; parent of the candidate. As a hiring manager I:
    1) hated to make a bad hire so I,
    2) devised a method to prevent it which involved,
    3) asking some tough questions that,
    4) demonstrated the candidate’s reasoning skills without,
    5) condescending to or insulting the intelligence of someone I only just met and who most likely is just some decent guy or gal trying to find a blasted job and who does not need me kicking them in face as thanks for dressing up just to talk to me….

    Have any of these “employment experts” ever been complimented on their interview experience by their candidates? I have and offer that it is a rare gem worthy of pursuit.

    I well recall a [not-to-be-named] VP from after I turned my method back onto him with a few questions during an interview, turning to one of his flunkies to ask sardonically “please remind me, who is interviewing who here?”. I left with a huge smile on my face over this point alone. It was a clear SCORE ONE FOR THE CANDIDATE – YEA ! ! !

    Well done Geoff – yet again! We really must sit down to a cuppa tea sometime to share notes and compare leaf counts from our tea bags. Marvelous!


  6. Ritu says:

    That was a great bit of flash!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JT Twissel says:

    Ha! I have interviewed some cheeky folks in my day and been asked some stupid questions but none quite that crazy. One young man asked me if I was a mother. I guess he thought that a mother would take care of him.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent final comeuppance

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Score one for the woman -zero for the blokes 🙂 I always thought interviewing with men was like watching dogs peeing on posts 😀 That article was interesting – the interview world just gets crazier and crazier. doesn’t it Interviews are like exams, they just reveal who survives under pressure and not who has the skills to learn. I used to see kids going for their first jobs who had been coached in how to be successful in interviews, then when getting the jobs finding they had no skills to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Having been on both sides of the desk I enjoyed what you wrote here.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Darn. You still didn’t answer the question.


  12. willowdot21 says:

    That’s the trubble with Margarine she can be a tad slippy and trip you up!
    Great piece Geoff . 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jennie says:

    And I was hoping Gribble had a shot at the job. At least he got in a good shot. Excellent, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hahahaha!! Love it!! You had me gripped! Clever

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Charli Mills says:

    So close! I actually like that technique. Better than getting caught in the company bathroom doing power poses in the mirror before an interview!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Tandi Tales says:

    I bet his next interview was at a string factory, where he asked “how long is a piece of string?”
    Great story!

    Liked by 1 person

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